Could Life be Explained by Game Theory?

While searching through multiple articles, I found this one from Science News . I wasn't planning on writing about it, but then I realized, this is a great "real life" example of the information from chapter 10 of our textbook, so it might be of interest if you want to understand game theory a little better.

Game theory did not originally stem from economics, rather it came from math. It was decades after the first game theory equation that John Nash applied it to multi-player "relevant" scenarios. Nash Equilibrium moved game theory into the public eye since it now could be relevant in psychology, politics, and economics. Eventually game theory was a tool biologists began to use to explain evolution, and chemists can even use it to describe chemical reactions.

Chemically speaking, elements tend to form / gather in their most stable configuration, by using the least amount of energy possible. They do this all the time, if you were to put hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms together you will get water H2O... 100% of the time. You wont get H3O. Due to the formation of H2O, the molecules are now more stable and can conserve more energy. There is no propensity to cheat, or bias to behave a certain way, an atom / chemicals can be thought to behave rationally. Because of this rationality, chemical reactions lead to equilibrium. While this example may seem irrelevant to our economic study of game theory, it isn't. This is a real example of how atoms compete and cooperate with each other to accomplish their individual goals of becoming more stable. On a side note, this equilibrium is maintained without collusion or the need of a punishment strategy, even if it is a one-shot or infinitely repeated game.

Moving to biochemistry some proteins can change / alter their rigidity or flexibility depending on their environment. This biochemical strategy is similar to a business strategy in which businesses control their pollution levels depending on the eco-conscious levels of their consumers. Further studying of biochemical game theory could lead to increased medical advancements by being able to alter the strategies they use to promote health.

This topic continues to be popular in science because it is a method to base scientific reasoning's on to help us paint a better picture of where we come from. I think the above items are enough to peak interest in reading more about this topic, or in the very least help shed new light on how game theory can be applied to other topics rather then economics.

Here are several other websites that discuss these strategies further and also some interesting others.



Dave Tufte said...

Ted: 94/100 (I think you mean "reasonings" not "reasoning's").

Fascinating post. I'm so glad you brought this up; it's exactly this sort of open ended thinking that I'm trying to encourage with blogging. I actually raised some questions along these lines in discussion with Neil Shubin when he came to campus last month. Perhaps Andy will comment with his views.

FWIW: My coauthors and I published a piece about zombie narratives, in which we made a game theory based argument that it's unlikely that humans or zombies would "win".

Lyn said...

When applying game theory and Nash equilibrium to other fields of study and life in general, it can be seen more clearly that it is the optimal state to reach. Having recently become a parent, I can easily apply these concepts to raising my daughter. Being seven months old, she wants to become more mobile, and I don’t want to have to carry her everywhere. Our Nash equilibrium is me teaching her how to crawl and her learning how to crawl. As our circumstances change so does our Nash equilibrium. After she learns to crawl, we’ll both want her to learn to walk, then speak words followed by sentences. It’s the same in business. Competitors in an industry may find their Nash equilibrium, but as the business environment changes, so will the Nash equilibrium. As long as an environment remains competitive, Nash equilibrium has the potential to change.

Dave Tufte said...

Lyn: 50/50.

Interesting. You know, there's been quite a bit done on the game theory of marriage and child raising. I can point you towards a few books.

Here's a pointer that's a little mind-blowing. There are both cooperative and non-cooperative games, each with their own strategies and equilibria. Parents and children play both of them.